News struck today that Matt Frattin is out at least a week with an MCL issue. That’s not a typo, where we’ve accidentally placed Frattin’s name in place of James Reimer’s; Frattin, who has been a pleasant surprise on the third line. Somebody made the joke that seeing the Leafs’ at the top of the standings made them weak-kneed,
(No takers on the bet I was willing to make on this post. I’m still open to making it.)
He’s second on the team with seven goals, behind just James van Riemsdyk. While nobody should expect his pace to continue, since Frattin is shooting the puck in the net at an absurd 38.9% rate. The highest rate in Leafs history (minimum 40 games and 100 shots) is 22.6% set by Gary Roberts in 2004. Shooting rates don’t that just don’t last, and, from looking at the years in the link above, gee there was some bad goaltending in the 1980s.
That said, I think a lot of people will look at the shots Frattin’s taken so far this year generally as quality opportunities. Frattin has the advantage of playing with a play-making centre, so he’s more fit to go to the dirty areas of the ice. He’s shown some great finishing touch up close to the net.
Part of the reason why his shooting rate is unsustainable is because pucks just find his stick in close. When we refer to “puck luck” as showcasing how players’ shooting percentages drop when they get too high, or increase when they get too low, it’s generally assumed that a certain rate of really good shots in front should either be stopped or hit the post. I think getting those shots requires a certain degree of luck as well. Kadri has just been bombing in the last four or five games.
Since the Carolina game, Frattin has been on the ice for 19 scoring chances for the Leafs. Kadri has been on the ice for 16. It’s insane, and a lot of pucks are sneaking through blocks, bouncing off shin pads, and finding their way onto Matt Frattin’s stick.
It’s another mathematical problem I look at when analyzing the Maple Leafs right now. In score-close situations at 5-on-5, which is defined as any time when the score is tied or in the first two periods when the game is within one goal, the Leafs are out-chancing their puck possession. I have the Leafs’ taking 52.2% of scoring chances relative to their opponents, while Behind the Net has the Leafs’ having just 45.9% of puck possession calculated by unblocked shot differential totals.
Any idiot could tell you that a quality shot has a better chance of scoring than a perimeter shot, but given how much shot differential statistics sync up with offensive zone time, perhaps the Leafs are getting lucky when it comes to creating those good shots. As in, they’ll spend an inordinate amount of time in their own end, coming back to the other side and scoring a goal. That happened in the Monday game against Philadelphia. Mikhail Grabovski & Co. had an awful start, hemmed in their own zone for their first five shifts. By shot attempt differential, counting blocks and missed shots (called Corsi) Grabovski’s unit had been on the ice for three attempts for and seven against before their goal. Only one of those seven shots against was a registered scoring chance.
“Keep play to the outside” is an acceptable goal, but if you allow the opponent to spend too much time inside the zone, you’re susceptible to bad bounces, banks and karoms leading to chances against. Spend 40% of the time in your own zone, and the chances of one defenceman missing his assignment leading to a goal against is increased. While chances are nice, I think the Leafs are still playing with fire when it comes to puck possession. Generally, over 82 games, scoring chances sync up with puck possession. It’s only been 13 for the Leafs so far.
I count scoring chances each game, and also count the players who have taken attempts. Here is a chart of the Leafs’ individual scoring chance leaders. A scoring chance is any clear shot attempt from the “home plate” area of the ice. I award a chance “setup” to a player who makes a clear pass to a player unabated to the scoring chance area. Think of them as basketball assists. Nazem Kadri is good at them:
|Player||5v5 Ice Time||Taken||Setups||Taken/20||Setups/20||Chances/20|
|James van Riemsdyk||177.4||19||3||2.14||0.34||2.48|
I sorted them by rate of chances “taken” and “setup” per 20 minutes. Kadri and Kessel, the Leafs’ two primary puck-movers, lead the team unsurprisingly in the setups category. Kessel hasn’t taken a lot of good shots recently and is beginning to nearly exclusively set up his teammates when he comes into the zone. It’s troubling that he’s taking fewer shots when he moves in with speed, opting to pull up and look for a pass. I thought getting off the scoring slump would prevent him from doing this.
The other thing worth noting is how little involved the Leafs defence is at five-on-five. The last nine players on the list are all defencemen. Before making any conclusions on this, I’d like to see how the Vancouver Canucks’ data breaks down as well—Thomas Drance, Dimitri Filopovic, Patrick Johnston and myself count chances similarly over at Canucks Army and one of these days I may total those up and see if there’s a pandemic of defencemen playing more stay-at-home hockey.
Matt Frattin is first in chances “taken”, followed by van Riemsdyk and Clarke MacArthur. MacArthur’s overall shot percentage is only 9.5% however, so perhaps there are a lot of missed shots in here, or if he’s coming up lame on the powerplay. Something worth keeping an eye on.